State Representative RoseLee Vincent recently delivered the following testimony before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of legislation that would codify environmental justice policy into Massachusetts General Laws. As the representative whose district includes areas designated by the Commonwealth as neighborhoods of environmental justice, she is proud to joint sponsor this legislation.
“Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Madam Chair and members of our honorable committee. I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of House Bills 2913 and 2914 and Senate Bills 426 and 427. All four of these bills seek to codify principals of Environmental Justice into our General Laws.
Environmental justice? What is “environmental justice?” Right now it is just a feel good term, but means nothing.
Communities like Revere, Saugus and Chelsea are targeted by companies that pollute our air, land, wetlands, rivers and oceans with little or no regard for our health or our environment. They spend millions of dollars in donations and buy their way into less affluent cities and towns. They do this because they can.
This legislation would protect residents who have been disproportionally burdened by pollution, as well as overlooked and ignored by environmental agencies that were meant to protect them.
In my district, constituents are burdened by a myriad of industrial pollution, most notably a 40 year old trash incinerator and a 40 year old unlined ash landfill both are contained within an Area of Critical of Environmental Concern and abuts two rivers that flow into America’s First Public Beach. Further, and even more horrifying, this facility and its unlined landfill are less than a half mile from people’s homes and is totally unbuffered. Over 150,000 people live within three miles – this facility was supposed to close over 20 years ago, yet it remains.
Why? Because they can! Why? Because the term “environmental justice” has no meaning.
It’s time to put some teeth behind the concept of “environmental justice,” and make it more more than just a feel good term. Right now, as a result of the Executive Order, agencies are encouraged to implement EJ policies. However, they are not required to do so, and as in my district’s case, they do not.
By enacting this legislation, we are exercising our duty to mandate what is morally just. We can make a real, positive difference in the lives of our constituents and our environment for future generations if we adopt this legislation into law.”